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Free Content The origins and precolonial epidemiology of tuberculosis in the Americas: can we figure them out? [Unresolved issues]

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Paleologic evidence of tuberculosis in the precolonial Americas is reviewed to cast light on its origins and subsequent epidemiology. The genus Mycobacterium is an ancient one, and M. tuberculosis may have differentiated 20400 to 15300 years ago. The Americas were peopled by migrants from Asia in two major migrations, one occurring more than 2000 years ago and the other 12000 to 11000 years ago. Tuberculosis reached the Americas with these migrants, persisting at a low level of endemnicity in small, dispersed population groups. Beginning about 1500 years ago, an epidemic of tuberculosis began, probably in the Andean region of South America. It did not reach or subsided in time to leave highly susceptible indigenous American populations at the time of European colonization.

Keywords: history of tuberculosis; precolonial America; tuberculosis

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: Center for International Health, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Publication date: May 1, 2000

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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